Latin American and Related Sessions at the American Historical Association Meeting, December 27-30, 1985, New York, New York.

Initialed session and committee meeting summaries were written by: Paul Ganster (San Diego State University); William D. Phillips (San Diego State University); Charles Fleener (St. Louis University); David Sheinin (University of Connecticut); Frederick B. Pike (Notre Dame); Erick D. Langer (Carnegie-Mellon University); Silvia M. Arrom (Indiana University); Asunción Lavrin (Howard University); Jane M. Rausch (University of Massachusetts, Amherst).

Conference on Latin American History 1985 Business Meeting—The Conference on Latin American History held its 58th business meeting on December 29, 1985, in New York City. Outgoing Chairperson Robert A. Potash (University of Massachusetts, Amherst) presided over the meeting.

Following the introduction of conference officers and guests, Potash announced the results of the latest CLAH election. Peggy K. Liss (Washington, D.C.) will serve as 1986 vice chairperson and Professors Charles W. Bergquist (Duke University) and Paul W. Drake (University of California, San Diego) were elected to two-year terms on the General Committee.

The 1985 CLAH prize winners were then announced. The Herbert Eugene Bolton Memorial Prize for the best book in English published in the field of Latin American history during 1984 was awarded to Nancy Farriss (University of Pennsylvania) for Maya Society under Colonial Rule: The Collective Enterprise of Survival (Princeton University Press). Honorable mention for the Bolton prize went to Karen Spalding for her book Huarochirí: An Andean Society under Inca and Spanish Rule (Stanford University Press).

The Conference on Latin American History Prize for the best article published in a journal other than the HAHR was awarded to Rebecca J. Scott (University of Michigan) for her article “Explaining Abolition: Contradiction, Adaptation, and Challenge in Cuban Slave Society, 1860-1886” (Comparative Studies in Society and History, January 1984).

The James Alexander Robertson Memorial Prize for the best article published in the HAHR was won by Robert W. Patch (Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, Mérida) for “Agrarian Change in Eighteenth-Century Yucatán” (February 1985). Honorable mention was awarded to Erick Langer (Carnegie-Mellon University) for “Labor Strikes and Reciprocity on Chuquisaca Haciendas” (May 1985).

The 1985 James R. Scobie Memorial Award winner was Carolyn Sexton Roy (University of California, Los Angeles). The award, presented in June, enabled Roy to spend the summer in archives in Parral, Mexico, engaged in predissertation research on the social history of colonial Parral.

After the announcement of the CLAH prize winners, the chair introduced the guest speaker, Dra. Josefina A. Vázquez (El Colegio de México) who presented a stimulating address entitled “México y Estados Unidos desde el Foreign Office, 1833-1846.” Vázquez touched on a theme little studied in Mexico—that of the loss of Mexico’s northern territories. Through the use of reports of British diplomats in Mexico located in the British Foreign Office archives to study the critical period, 1833-1846, she demonstrated how the British proved to be excellent third-party observers of a complex and difficult relationship between Mexico and the United States.

The meeting ended as Potash passed the gavel to 1986 Chairperson Michael C. Meyer (University of Arizona).

P. G.


“The Historical Ecology of Spanish America”—This panel was chaired by Paul Ganster (San Diego State University) and featured three papers: “Ecological Effects of Silver Mining in Colonial Spanish America,” by Peter J. Bakewell (University of New Mexico), “Water Systems and the Environment in the Bajío Region of Colonial Mexico,” by Michael E. Murphy (University of California, Berkeley), and “The Genesis of the Valle del Mezquital: Environmental and Social Change in the Era Prior to the Hacienda,” by Elinor G. K. Melville (University of Michigan). Ganster was the commentator and rapporteur.

These three papers constitute an important step in defining and blocking out a significant field of inquiry for colonial Latin American history—that of historical ecology. Geographers including Robert West, Carl Sauer, James Parsons, and Charles Bennett, have long been interested in the subject. The papers of this panel carry on that tradition, and demonstrate that younger scholars engaging in detailed research in a wide range of archival resources are now turning their attention to the historical evolution of the landscape. All three papers point out, either explicitly or implicitly, that research in historical ecology is not easy. The relevant data are widely scattered in many different sections of archives, most often as incidental references or as indirect evidence. Often, key information is simply not available. Moreover, as Peter Bakewell observed, understanding the scientific literature on ecology and interacting with scientists should be necessary components of this sort of research.

Bakewell examined the ecological impacts of provisioning the colonial mining industry with labor and raw materials such as salt, mercury, water, hides, and wood. He noted, for example, that the insatiable demand for wood quickly resulted in deforestation around major mining centers, with predictable increased runoff and probable changes in local microclimates. He then discussed generation of hazardous wastes by the industry (the most important was mercury), and speculated as to short- and long-term negative health impacts. Finally, he made suggestions for future research on colonial ecology.

Murphy’s research concerns water systems in the colonial Mexican Bajío. First, he examined the development of irrigation systems and how they affected the landscape. Next, he looked at the problem of the deterioration of watersheds and documents significant watershed degradation in this part of New Spain. Finally, in an examination of attempts by colonial authorities to provide pure water supplies for urban areas, he demonstrated that despite significant efforts by municipal officials, colonial towns in the Bajío suffered chronic crises with water quantity and quality. Contamination of water supplies by human and industrial wastes was ubiquitous.

Melville presented an analysis of the social and ecological changes unleashed by Spanish settlement of the Valle de Mezquital, a central region of highland Mexico, between 1521 and 1600. She argues, convincingly, that the processes which transformed the landscape also transformed the early colonial systems of production and initiated latifundio development. Major variables in this process that were discussed include the demographic collapse of the Indian population; the conversion of land use to pastoralism and associated changes in land tenure; and the ecological changes which accompanied the expansion of sheep grazing. Her meticulously documented research suggests that the “pastoral sector of the political economy of Mexico at the end of the 16th century was based on a decline in the productive potential of these regions; that is, on local processes, as well as the development of Mercantile Capitalism at the global level.”

Collectively, these three papers raise important issues that need further research. They show that the relationship of people and environment in Mexico and other parts of colonial Latin America was often negative. Industrial pollution, hazardous wastes, lack of potable water for poor urban populations, deforestation through overexploitation, and soil erosion through overgrazing are not inventions of the twentieth century, but have been present for centuries. These papers demonstrate that ecological deterioration has a long history in Latin America and that we need to understand more about this process.

P. G.

“Ships and Shipping in the Hispanic World”—The session “Ships and Shipping in the Hispanic World,” chaired by William D. Phillips (San Diego State University), featured three complementary papers on Spanish shipbuilding. Each speaker presented a technical analysis, illustrated by slides, of a particular type of ship, and placed the findings in the larger contexts of Spanish crown policy and maritime history.

Eugene Lyon (St. Augustine Foundation) discussed the caravel Niña as she appeared on her 1498 voyage to Hispaniola. He described the vessel's size and shape, rigging, accoutrements, crew, and passengers, and he speculated that this Niña was the one Columbus used on his first two voyages as well. Paul Hoffman (Louisiana State University) described a group of galleyed galleons launched in 1568. Designed as fast patrol vessels for the Caribbean, their hulls were longer in relation to their width than previous Spanish galleons. Originally they sailed well, but limitations in their carrying and fighting abilities led to modifications that impaired their sailing characteristics. Carla Rahn Phillips (University of Minnesota) analyzed six galleons commissioned by the crown and launched in 1628, in time to participate in heightened efforts at defense after Piet Heyn's capture of the New Spain treasure fleet. Rather than being dedicated warships, these galleons served the dual functions of treasure carriers and warships.

In his commentary, Edward Garcia (State University College of New York, Farmingdale) praised the papers as correctives to the traditional tendency of maritime historians to ignore Spanish naval developments. The caravel was useful in the first stages of exploration and settlement. By the midsixteenth century, the increased need for defense against European rivals impelled the Spanish crown to influence ship design, and Spanish maritime experts brought rationality and experimentation to bear on the problems of naval design. The audience responded with discussions of Spanish trade and maritime affairs, and northern European borrowing of Spanish maritime designs.

W. D. P.

“The Third Mexican Council and Structuring of New Spain (1585)”—“The Third Mexican Council and Structuring of New Spain (1585)” met on December 29, 1985. Some 35 persons were in attendance.

Richard Greenleaf (Tulane University) served as chair of the session. He introduced Stafford Poole (St. John's College), who read “The Directorio para confesores: Finishing the Counter-Reformation.” This paper placed the work of the Third Mexican Council in the context of imperial and European perspectives. The Catholic Reformation, resulting from the Council of Trent, was effectively introduced into Mexico by Pedro de Contreras after he became archbishop in 1571. Poole explained how the actions of the third council were the crest of Contreras’s efforts in New Spain.

John Frederick Schwaller (Florida Atlantic University) focused on one of the achievements of the third council: the production of the Directorio para confesores. This document, until recently not reviewed by contemporary scholars, provides fascinating glimpses into the social organization of New Spain. Briefly, but enticingly, Schwaller suggested some of the questions that may be asked and answered by this provocative manuscript.

Unfortunately, Victoria Hennessy Cummins (Boston College) was unable to attend this session due to illness. The commentator, Charles Fleener (Saint Louis University) read excerpts from her paper in which she admirably and convincingly explained the council’s importance. From it came the statutes of the church in Mexico that regulated that institution into the twentieth century. To understand the organization and spirit of the postconquest colonial church in New Spain, one must start here.

The commentator attempted to bring together the themes of the papers, which was relatively easily achieved as they complemented one another to a remarkable degree. The whole emergence of the Baroque era in New Spain, reflecting Spains involvement with the Counter-Reformation, was a subject of discussion.

C. F.

“Nationalism: Autonomous Development or Foreign Importation?"—Paul B. Goodwin, Jr. (University of Connecticut) chaired the session “Nationalism: Autonomous Development or Foreign Importation?”. An audience of 49 heard three excellent papers and a first-rate commentary concerning Argentine nationalism as a long-term, and still continuing, historical process. Sandra McGee Deutsch (University of Texas, El Paso) spoke on “The Liga Patriótica Argentina: Autonomous Development, But Not Nationalistic.’’ Ronald H. Dolkart (California State College, Bakersfield) presented a talk on “Buenos Aires Province Under Manuel Fresco, 1936-1940: A Nacionalista Policy of Labor Legislation and Social Control.” David Rock (University of California, Santa Barbara) addressed “Nacionalismo: Some Functions and Legacies of the Ultra-Right in Argentina.” Richard J. Walter (Washington University) offered the commentary.

McGee Deutsch concentrated on the rise of the Liga Patriótica Argentina after the First World War. Despite Liga claims that it represented the best interests of the nation, the reality of Liga nationalism was the defense of upper-class interests. McGee Deutsch spoke on the social composition of Liga membership and on Liga activities, the most significant of which was the suppression of labor activism in the 1920s. A recurrent theme in McGee Deutsch's presentation was the duplicity of Liga nationalist rhetoric. The Liga Patriótica decried, for example, the penetration of the Argentine economy by foreign corporations, but maintained its own ties with foreign business.

Dolkart assessed the political career of Manuel Fresco. Unlike the Liga Patriótica's brand of nationalism, Fresco’s goals reflected a commitment to improve living standards for the majority of his constituents. Dolkart focused on Fresco’s novel labor policies for Buenos Aires province, which culminated in the 1937 Labor Code. New provisions included a system of compulsory arbitration and sweeping new powers for the Labor Department. As living standards rose in conjunction with Fresco’s legislative innovations, the governor won the support of organized labor—a feat that the political left and right in Argentina had not been able to accomplish. Dolkart maintained that although Fresco’s contributions have not been given much attention by historians, his influence on the labor policies of Juan Perón is notable.

Rock defined Argentine nacionalistas in no uncertain terms. They were right-wing fanatics. Rock’s paper went on to stress five broad areas in which the continuity of nacionalismo was apparent. Rock argued that the antimetropolitanism, ruralism, and localism of Nationalists in the 1930s had their roots as far back as the period of the reconquest in Spain. Other themes discussed in the paper centered on nacionalismo as cultural dependency, as propagator of myths, and as an originator, in Argentine society, of economic nationalist thought.

In his commentary, Walter emphasized the complexity and continuity of Argentine nationalism. He called for further study of such topics as the relationships of nacionalistas to the major political parties, nacionalismo in the interior, and the influence of nacionalismo after the Second World War. Walter spoke also to the issue of why nacionalismo had not been more influential in Argentine society.

The session ended with provocative questions and comments from the floor. These included inquiries as to the origins of right-wing nationalist thought, the anti-Semitism of the Liga Patriótica, the foreign influences on Manuel Fresco’s policies, and, finally, a brief discussion of fascism and Argentine nationalism.

D. S.

“The Catholic Church in Twentieth-Century Latin American Politics”—Chaired by Fredrick B. Pike (Notre Dame) and with some 50 persons in attendance, the session on “The Catholic Church in Twentieth-Century Latin American Politics” opened with a paper on “Ecclesial Based Communities and Politics in Brazil,” presented by Scott Mainwaring (Notre Dame). Originating in the 1960s as part of an effort to stimulate religious observances among the popular classes and to compensate for scarcity of priests, ecclesial based communities (CEBs) had within a decade become focal points of protest against the military regime’s social and economic policies. The CEBs always remained under the close control of the hierarchy, their frequent leftist leanings mirroring the views of reform-minded Brazilian bishops. As Brazil returned to democratic processes in the mid-1980s, traditional elitist political organizations took up many of the causes previously defended by the Catholic hierarchy as buttressed by the CEBs. Moreover, progressive church leaders have currently been overtaken by a tide of Catholic neoconservatism. Consequently, grass-roots movements have been caught in the pincers of political irrelevance and of marginalization within the church itself.

Discussing “The Political Role of the Mexican Catholic Church: The Genesis of Contemporary Church-State Issues,” Dennis Hanratty (Library of Congress) contended that the church’s success by 1920 in developing a program for social change threatened the social control sought by the new revolutionary governments. Out of this tension-charged background emerged the church-state conflict of the 1920s, a conflict which caused the hierarchy to become more cautious lest it exacerbate official anticlericalism. Conservatism yielded to activism in the 1960s, as the church grew obsessed with preventing the rise of communism. The 1968 government-student confrontation led activist priests to demand an explicitly political form of opposition to prevailing economic and social policies. The current Mexican economic crisis, coupled with a perception by many church leaders of a stagnating political system, have led a number of bishops to reassert the church’s longstanding ties with the National Action Party, while at the same time they criticize the injustices of capitalism.

In an upbeat paper, “The Overlapping of the Church’s Religious Mission and Political Realities in Latin America,” Rev. Ernest Sweeney, S.J., concentrated on Chile in the Allende and Pinochet years. He stressed the church’s vanguard position in defense of human rights. Conceding the many divisions within the church and the fact that some Catholics criticize the hierarchy for its preferential option for the poor while others fret that the church is not revolutionary enough, Fr. Sweeney stressed that all elements continue to accept ecclesiastical authority. With the old framework of church-state union forever shattered, the church now has greater opportunity to champion reform, while at the same time avoiding identification with any political party.

Commenting on the papers, Margaret Crahan (Occidental College) found some parallels between the traditional and the new manifestations of church involvement in the secular sphere. Siding with the findings of the Mainwaring paper, she stressed that serious students of the CEBs have not found them to be genuine instruments of popular expression. In fact, contemporary “grass-roots” movements can be seen as traditional clientelism in a new guise. Crahan suggested the need to study perceptions of the church as a grace-conferring instrument in the attempt to account for its continuing significance.

In the audience participation period, some skepticism was voiced as to the readiness of the church to tolerate and welcome those not of the faith. The chairman concluded the session by identifying with the skeptics.

F. B. P.


Committee on Andean Studies—The Andean Studies Committee met on December 29, 1985. The session featured a panel on “Labor, Taxation, and the Colonial State in the Andes,” chaired by Erick D. Langer (Carnegie-Mellon University). Papers presented included ‘‘Early Encomienda Tribute in the Andes: The Case of the Chupaychu in Huánuco, Peru, 1532-1562” by Efraín Trelles (Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú), “Indian Migration, Labor, and Cultural Change: Oruro in the Seventeenth Century” by Ann Zulawski (University of New Hampshire), and “Colonial Taxation and Indian Response in Rural Cuzco: Quispicanchis and Canas y Canchis in the Eighteenth Century” by Ward Stavig (University of California, Davis). Jeffrey A. Cole (University of Massachusetts) served as commentator.

Trelles examined the encomienda tribute payments of the Chupaychu Indians as available from the published visita of Iñigo Ortiz de Zúñiga. Three periods in encomienda tributes could be discerned. The first period of “compulsive tributation” (1535-1548) was marked by violent conquest and civil war, but was lighter and more sporadic in terms of goods required than later periods. Trelles focused on the second period of “tribute valuation” (1549-1570), where both work and commodities were required. The curacas distributed these obligations in a discriminatory manner. Households with married couples paid more in cloth and chickens than other types of tributaries. Some tributes in certain “trifles” were never collected, but instead represented a type of credit against labor or other type of tribute which the encomendero could require instead. The third period, of “tribute monetarization” (1572-1600?), begun under Viceroy Toledo, represents a distinctive epoch in the evolution of the encomienda.

Zulawski analyzed the issue of whether Indian workers were dependent on paid labor and whether this signified the beginnings of a proletariat in the seventeenth-century silver mining town of Oruro (Alto Perú). Oruro mineowners did not receive workers from the mita; instead, two basic types of Indian workers emerged, the yanaconas and the forasteros. In addition to their wage, most forasteros customarily took a piece of ore out of the mines to sell independently. Though the mineowners attempted to stop this practice, this payment in ore constituted a considerable portion of the forasteros’ earnings. These Indians were drawn primarily from regions near Oruro, and probably maintained access to land to which they returned periodically. In turn, the much smaller numbers of yanaconas, although most apparently had cut their ties to the countryside, were an extremely mobile group who were primarily independent artisans or petty merchants. Thus, neither the forasteros nor the yanaconas, even in the dynamic mining economy of Oruro which relied on voluntary labor, developed into a mining proletariat.

Stavig argued that the perceptions of the Indians in the late eighteenth-century protests were rather different than many historians, especially Jurgen Golte, have thought. Rather, Stavig noted that revolts were infrequent and most often represented protests against a particular abusive individual, not against the entire colonial system. Many antagonisms resulting from taxation were directed elsewhere, into the community or against other communities, as the numerous legal disputes over land and other matters attest. Stavig concludes that it is important not to overlook this perspective when explaining how the Andean Indians dealt with the sweeping changes of the late colonial period.

In commenting on these papers, Cole noted that all three papers asked different questions than traditional historiography. Now that historians are examining the Indians as resourceful individuals, it becomes possible to show the true complexity of human life. As a way to continue shedding light on important issues, Cole suggested that Andean historians pay more attention to oral traditions for understanding the Indians’ motivations and to draw parallels to modern counterparts, such as the similarities between the conquest of northeastern Guatemala today and certain phases in the Spanish conquest of Peru and Mexico.

E. D. L.

Committee on Mexican StudiesCLAH—Silvia M. Arrom (Indiana University) chaired the meeting, which was attended by a small but enthusiastic group of about 20. Arrom announced that, though the invited speaker had cancelled at the last moment, Mark Wasserman (Rutgers University) and Barbara Tenenbaum (University of South Carolina) had graciously agreed to prepare a panel on “Rethinking the Nineteenth Century.”

Wasserman described two recent trends in Mexican historiography: first, an emphasis on continuities in Mexican history from 1750 to 1930 (such as the struggle between the center and outlying regions, and constant rural unrest); and second, an exploration of the differences among regions. Tenenbaum then reviewed two approaches often used in explaining the political instability of the half century after independence (personality theory and dependency theory), and suggested how recent research on economic development is challenging these explanations. After comments by Arrom on continuities from the Reforma to the Porfiriato, the audience joined in a lively discussion about new interpretations of the nineteenth century and areas that merit further research.

S. M. A.

Colonialists—The inaugural meeting of the colonialist group took place in a room filled to capacity. John J. TcPaske (Duke University) and Herbert Klein (Columbia University) presented some of the results of their research on the Spanish royal treasury accounts. This long-term study was possible, they explained, thanks to the continuity of the records, the standard accounting procedures used by the Spanish crown, and the use of computer analysis by the historians. Long-term trends are easier to determine than smaller trends within local economies, owing to the nuances of record keeping. The study of 14 main categories of taxes has allowed a determination of their importance as revenue, and an assessment of the validity of several historical interpretations of the economic cycles in the Spanish empire.

TePaske and Klein reiterated their already published first analysis of the data. Their figures suggest a Mexican decline in silver production between 1640 and 1670 followed by an upsurge at the end of the century. Mexican production rose continuously throughout the eighteenth century after an initial decline. Peruvian production followed different cycles, and had a sharper and more continuous decline from the 1630s onward. At best, bullion production in Peru only recovered fully in the late eighteenth century. So far, their findings seem to confirm John Lynch’s theory of declining remittances of bullion to Spain, a stronger trend after the third quarter of the seventeenth century. Defense priorities were responsible for the decline in remittances. Other interesting findings on the correlation of tax policies and mining production, and the importance of tax revenues from local cajas were discussed. The authors answered queries on their methodology and the limitations of the materials under analysis, stressing that although they are still engaged in the latter, they feel they have been able to reach definitive results about the larger economic picture.

A. L.

Teaching and Teaching Materials Committee, 1985—The committee met on Friday, December 27, 1985. Present were Robert Matoon, Linda Salvucci, Paul Goodwin, and Jane Rausch.

The chair reported on the status of the “Teaching Latin American History Today” section of the CLAH Newsletter. The committee approved publication of “The Fine Art of Synthesis: Latin American History for Freshmen” by Brad Burns to inaugurate the section in the Spring 1986 Newsletter. Linda Salvucci agreed to review the collection of course syllabi edited by John F. Bratzel and Leslie B. Rout, Jr. entitled Latin American History (Marcus Wiener, 1985) for the Fall 1986 Newsletter. It was agreed that the chair, in her capacity as editor, should commission brief articles for future Newsletters until more volunteered contributions are received.

A discussion followed on the financial and logistical problems which prevent committee members from attending business meetings scheduled the night before the CLAH-AHA convention actually begins. The chair was instructed to urge the general committee to revamp procedures for nominating members and scheduling committee meetings in order to ensure greater attendance in the future.

To avoid this problem during the 1986 meetings in Chicago, and because of the lack of a teaching panel in the formal CLAH program for 1986, the committee decided to sponsor a workshop on teaching to be held in a time slot similar to those occupied by the regional committees. “Teaching the Survey Course: What Works? What Doesn’t” was the suggested theme for the workshop. Final details were left to the chairs discretion pending approval by the general committee.

The committee then discussed a variety of issues including: how to identify dynamic teaching of Latin American history; conducting a survey of CLAH membership to learn about effective teaching techniques; involving younger faculty members and graduate students in the work of the committee; and getting the AHA to publish a pamphlet on “Teaching Latin American History.” No action was taken on any of these matters.

J. M. R.